Although tuition fees are not the only financial barrier faced by students, they are the highest cost students face as students. After successive tuition fee increases in the 1990s that resulted in fees increasing in Newfoundland and Labrador by nearly 150 percent for university students and 200 percent for college students in less than ten years, in 1999, the province’s first tuition fee freeze was announced. Subsequent governments further froze, and even reduced fees by 25 percent. In 2012-2013, students will be entering the fourteenth of a promised seventeen consecutive years of fee freezes and reductions.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the rate at which students enroll in university has been strongly tied to relative tuition fee rates: throughout the massive fee hikes of the 1990s, enrollment declined substantially, but since the first freeze in 1999, the trend has reversed and larger numbers of students have attended Memorial University every year. In fact, since 1999, enrollment increased by more than 12 percent, while at the same time, the province’s population of those under 30 declined by 16 percent. The evidence is clear: freezing tuition fees is the most important way that governments can protect students from ever-increasing student debt.
Students throughout Canada, including those at Grenfell and in Newfoundland and Labrador will be continuing to campaign for reduced tuition fees.